Work & Wellbeing

Standard desk height UK – what is it?

Business Advice | 17 September 2021 | 3 years ago

Standard desk height UK - what is it

The standard desk height in the UK ranges between 72-73cm, and although desks of this height are found in offices all over the country, this height is most suited to people between 5’8 and 5’10 inches tall.

As obviously not everybody falls between this height range, in order to ensure that standard height desk users are comfortable, it’s important to consider the combined set up of the desk, chair and the positioning of the individual, plus any equipment they’re using. This will ensure desk users are in the most efficient, productive and comfortable position when sitting or standing at a standard desk height in the UK.

Read on as we cover everything you need to know about desk heights in the UK, including options on changing the height of your desk, how to set up your desk and chair properly for the optimum working conditions, and why it’s important to get desk height right.

What sizes do desks come in?

Desks can come in all shapes and sizes but for the purpose of this article, we’re really focusing on your standard desk height. Think open plan offices in commercial work spaces and traditional home office setups. Obviously there is plenty of scope to get a bespoke desk that is made to measure for your body but for now, we’re focusing on the humble, standard desk.

Most desks of this nature fall within the range of 725 mm and 730 mm high or 28-30 inches.

Although this desk height is pretty standard all around the world, it’s fair to say, as we touched on above, that people do not come in standard sizes! As a standard desk with the measurements above are best suited to people between 5’8 and 5’10 inches tall, this means that anyone that is much taller or shorter than this may struggle to sit comfortably without giving serious consideration to the whole desk setup including chair and body positioning.

This is why, when planning a professional office refurbishment or sprucing up a home office, it’s important to ensure that the size, shape and working preferences of people who will actually be using the desk are considered, along with the chairs and space they need to work comfortably for long periods of time.

Why is desk height important?

Why is desk height important?

Desk height is important because it affects user comfort which in turn affects productivity and long term health.

We all know that we work better if we’re comfortable, and that being comfortable impacts our energy levels, health, productivity and quality of work. It’s fair to say then, that if you’re constantly adjusting your chair to find a comfy position to work in, or your elbows are by your shoulders, because your sat at a desk that is too high or low for your body, then you’re probably not going to be getting much else done at work that day. You could run into muscle pain when sat in the same less than optimal position for days, months and years, as is likely in any job or hobby that requires regular time at a desk.

The process of considering people’s efficiency in their working environment is known as ergonomics. Simply put, ensuring an ergonomic setup between a person and the equipment they use to complete the tasks and processes they complete on a regular basis will ensure they are more likely to be productive and comfortable, leading to a better output at work.

Empowering staff to be as productive as possible can be a game changer when it comes to an organisation’s bottom line, so it’s good to know you can achieve this with a little planning in regards to desk height, seating options and space available in your office environment.

Although this may all sound complicated, getting the right ergonomic setup with a standard height desk can easily be achieved by following a few simple rules around the office chair, desk user positioning and desk height, all of which we’ll cover in more detail below.

For optimum productivity, consider these three simple things when using a desk:

  1. Office chair
  2. Desk user positioning
  3. Desk height

Relationship between worker and desk

To achieve an ergonomically optimised set up when working at a desk, you need to consider the desk, the chair and the seating position of the person using it.

A correct set up between all three when sitting will ensure:

  • Both feet are flat on the ground
  • Keyboard, mouse or other equipment on the desk are in line with elbows
  • Knees and elbows should be at right angles to the floor
  • Monitors should be at arms length away and below the horizontal optical axis
When using a desk and chair that is set at the right height for the user, they should be comfortable and have no pain from prolonged periods of use. Even when sitting correctly at a desk it is always advisable to take regular breaks where you get up and walk around to encourage blood flow and to reduce eye strain, particularly if using a computer all day.

How high should a desk be?

How high should a desk be?

We now know how high a standard desk is going to be, but how high should it be?

The answer to how high a desk should be, really depends on the person using it. We know that a person’s height will impact how comfortable they are when using a standard desk height, but we should also give consideration to particular body types and proportions and how this can impact working efficiency too.

For example, if somebody has very short arms, a long neck, or particularly long thighs in relation to their calves, when in the same seated position as somebody else of the same height but different body proportions in these area, there would be a big difference in the levels of comfort both users would experience at the same height desk. It is therefore imperative that desk users give proper thought to their body’s position using the simple checklist above and the tips on measuring desk height below when using a desk to prevent undue stress on joints and muscles.

Measuring desk height

The best way to determine how high a desk should be, is to measure the desk in relation to the person who will be using it. To measure how high a desk should be, it’s a good idea to follow this rule of thumb:

  • when the desk user is sitting down, their elbows should be level with the top of the desk.
  • If the user is working at a standing desk, then the top of the desk should be at elbow level when standing.
To ensure your desk is at the right height, your elbows and underarms should lie straight on the table with relaxed upper arms. If the desk is too low, your spine will curve forward to compensate and if the desk is too high, your shoulders will rise, putting unnecessary stress on your neck muscles.

Adjusting desk height

Adjusting desk height

As desks tend to come in standard heights, it’s important to know your options for making your working space fit to your individual needs. This includes how to add height to a desk or how to lower the height of the desk.

Fully adjustable desks can be expensive, but so can treatment of pain for long term use of a desk that is poorly suited to the person using it. Therefore, some of the simple tricks below will help you to adjust the height of the desk you already have.

This mix of temporary and permanent tips to make your desk higher or lower are particularly handy if you don’t have the budget to replace the desk just yet, or need to allow for multiple users of the same desk on a budget.

Adding height can be fairly easy

  • You can utilise additional cuts of vinyl, wood or plastic cut to the same size at the top of the desk in layers until you have reached the correct height.
  • Affix adjustable risers to the bottom of the desk

Lowering a desk is more difficult

Lowering a desk can be a little more difficult depending on the material of the desk legs.

  • Wooden desks can be easily cut down to size by anyone with a saw but plastic or metal legs will require some intervention with more specialist tools.
  • If the desk has adjustable height mechanisms built into the legs, these can be set to the lowest setting and are a brilliant option for desks that are used by lots of different people.
Whilst plenty of options exist to adjust the height of a desk, they can be fiddly or time consuming, and may not work for a large scale office. As a result, the simplest option for most people is to ensure correct desk height in relation to their height and body proportions is to find a supportive, adjustable office chair.

Whether you’re using a desk for work, hobbies or eating dinner, utilising a chair that can be raised, lowered, tilted or moved closer or further away from the desk will allow you to achieve the optimum, most ergonomic position when using a desk meaning you can sit comfortably for long periods of time.

Related questions

Different kinds of desks

When we think of desks, most of us will tend to think of rows of generic open plan office desks lined up with matching laminated surfaces in a dull white or grey colour. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this kind of desk, and it’s fair to say that a traditional static desk like this at the right height is better than a fancy desk at the wrong height, but the option of an adjustable or fully bespoke desk is even better!

The style of desk you choose will depend on how you use it and where it’s used but there are plenty to choose from. Office managers for example will be looking for affordability and durability on a large scale, whilst home office users may want something more bespoke and unique to their working style or decorative tastes. Those short on space at home may also be using their desk for multiple uses including work, eating, storage and hobbies!

As desks are so versatile in their appearance and use, it’s not uncommon to have a variety of desk types in modern commercial settings these days. This gives workers the option to work in the most comfortable way for them, which as mentioned above, is a great way to boost productivity!

Common desk varieties: 

  • Sit – stand desks can move with your body throughout the day. If you prefer to sit in the morning then be more mobile in the afternoon for example
  • Plinth desks – tall solid based desks often used for standing meetings
  • Bespoke desks – pick the colour, finish, size and style that you love.

What kind of desk is best for office use?

The best kind of desk for office use will depend on lots of factors including;

  • How many people are using the desk
  • Do users prefer to sit, stand, or a mixture of both when working
  • Is the desk used in a commercial or domestic setting?
  • How much space is available for the desk itself and any additional workspace equipment like storage and seating is needed.
  • How much space does the desk user need to utilise the desk properly for what they do?
  • What kind of environment will the desk be used in? Is it hot, cold, dusty, damp? This will affect the kind of material the desk should be made of.
There is no single answer for what is the best desk for office use because, as you can see above, there are so many variables to consider when choosing an office desk.

For example, If the desk will be used in a hot desking scenario by lots of users in a busy commercial setting, adjustability and robustness might be key considerations, whereas if choosing a desk for home office use, the user may be more focused on how the desk looks in relation to their home decor, or want something specifically designed for them and the space they have available.

One thing is for sure though, there is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing an office desk, so arm yourself with the considerations above, and enjoy the process of shopping for a new desk!


Summary

The standard desk height in the UK is around 72-73 cm, but height shouldn’t be the only consideration when buying a new desk. Desk users should ensure they set up their desk, chair and equipment used with the desk in the most ergonomic way possible to ensure their long term comfort, efficiency and productivity.

From built-in adjustable height desks, to options for manually raising or lowering desk height, to finding a supportive, adjustable chair, there are plenty of options to ensure users of standard height desks are using them in the optimal seating or standing position based on their height and body proportions.

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